I’ve always thought of my hands as my favorite body part, the most reliable tools through which to express myself

Drawing, painting, centering a mound of slippery clay on the potter’s wheel, carving the clay when it had dried to leather hard. Tossing the clay scraps back into water and kneading them back into pliable clay.

Currying a horse. Picking up each hoof to clean the muck out with the hoof pick. Brushing out the dreadlocked mane and burr-filled tail. Scratching the scritchy places. Soothing and smoothing agitation with my palm. Saddling the horse and cinching up the leathers.

Carving wood and stone. Two hands in concert with each other, one holding the chisel and one striking the chisel butt with a hammer. Endless hours of rasping, filing, sanding, and polishing from course grit to fine, all the while my hands feeling the contours, discovering with fingertips the tiny flaws that the eye cannot see.

Later, on the aikido mat, my practice partners told me I had good hands and that I ought to consider massage therapy/bodywork. I had no idea what that meant but I gave it a try and discovered that indeed I do have good hands as long as I let them do what they do without overthinking or interfering with my doubting mind. It is as if they can see/feel what’s going on in the body, what pressure points need to be activated, what parts of the body need to be connected, which parts need to simply be supported. Ask me to explain what I’m doing as I’m doing it and I cannot without completely switching gears and sides of the brain, hands lifted away. My hands possess some other way of knowing that I don’t necessarily know.

And now, having survived glioblastoma, I live with the legacy of a damaged left hand. I don’t know if my former strength, dexterity, coordination, and sensitivity will ever come back. Most days my fingertips feel as if they are covered with wax, sensitivity dimmed and remote. I can only type garble with my left hand. I can barely put gloves on and often find two fingers in one glove sleeve and the other one empty. Earrings are impossible, so all of those have been given away to friends; I cannot tie a shoe, so all of my shoes are laceless. I cannot button a shirt, so all of my clothes are pullovers; it takes great concentration to zip my jeans and button them. I find that if I watch myself attempt these tasks in the mirror, I am much more successful and less frustrated.

No more cinching up the leathers on the saddle, but thank goodness I have learned that connecting with Esperanza does not have to involve riding her.

And thank God, my left hand can still hold a chisel and dig in the garden.

But lately, more sensations are coming into my left hand, a weird kind of blankness as if my hand were uninhabited. It is as if my brain sends messages — grab the door handle and turn it, for example — but the receptors in my hand are inhibited so the message doesn’t get through, and instead my hand flops around like a beached whale. Very disconcerting to say the least.

A couple of times, coincident with the blank feeling in my hand, I have felt my mouth muscles go off-line, for want of a better term, so that my attempts to speak sound muffled and garbled. When this happens, I take an extra antiseizure medication and a nap, hoping that these two remedies will help reset me so that I can continue to function and speak. But I am worried and have scheduled another MRI in a month to check to see what’s going on upstairs. Hopefully it’s just brain swelling that can be treated, and not another tumor event. I prefer the R word that stands for remission, not the other R word that stands for recurrence

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